Paul is talking to Timothy about widows, which ones qualify to receive the church's charity and which ones don't. I am not a widow, yet I still find 1 Timothy 5:3-7 ripe with information relevant to myself.
"She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives." 1 Timothy 5:5,6
I am self-indulgent. And according to God, I am dead even while I live. What does that mean? That I am useless? Without purpose? Dead in sin? I'm not too sure, but I know it isn't a good thing.
"A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls." Proverbs 25:28. Defenseless, open to temptation, no barriers or boundaries, not a chance of flourishing.
When I let down my "city walls" and indulge in one area, I am opening the door to indulgences in every area. This is the big lesson I took away from chapter 13 of Jerry Bridges Respectable Sins, entitled "Lack of Self-Control."
"Despite the scriptural teaching on self-control, I suspect this is one virtue that receives little conscious attention from most Christians. We have boundaries from our Christian culture that tend to restrain us from obvious sins, but within those boundaries we pretty much live as we please. We seldom say 'no' to our desires and emotions. A lack of self-control may well be one of our more 'respectable' sins. And because we tolerate this, we become more vulnerable to other 'respectable' sins." (Respectable Sins, page 110)
Bridges defines self-control as "a governance or prudent control of one's desires, cravings, impulses, emotions and passions. It is saying no when we should say no. It is moderation in legitimate desires and activities (like a cookie, cup of tea, or reading, say), and absolute restraint in a areas that are clearly sinful (gossip, for example)."
I really can't remember the last time I said no to a piece of chocolate. Or just five more minutes of reading (or ten, or fifteen, or twenty... you know how that goes). I eat what I want when I want, and I do what I want when I want. As a stay-at-home mom, I am my own boss. No one is looking over my shoulder, checking up on me.
I am selfish and self-indulgent. I consider my own desires to be more important than the desires of others, and allow my indulgences to inhibit my service of others. Like indulging myself in wasted time when I should be serving my family by cleaning my home or making dinner.
But I'm really not my own boss, am I? Scripture instructs me to "work heartily, as unto the Lord and not as unto men." And my precious Savior bids me to deny myself, to take up my cross daily and follow Him. The man who came not to be served, but to serve. Who did not do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him.
So what will I choose today? Will I be self-indulgent, as good as dead in the eyes of the Lord? Or will I choose self-control, to deny myself and follow Him? To give life to my family by lovingly putting their interests before my own...
I don't have it all together. This is a battle I fight every day, almost every minute. Self-control "covers every area of life and requires an unceasing conflict with the passions of the flesh that wage war against our souls" (Bridges, 111).
To equip myself for the daily battle, I've memorized Galatians 6:7-10.
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
In the day to day struggle, I am trying to remind myself to sow unto the Spirit. Pick up the cookie, or turn away because I am not hungry? Pick it up, sow to your flesh. Turn away, sow to the Spirit. Sit on the couch for just five more minutes, or get up and start making dinner? Sit and sow to the flesh, or get up and sow to the Spirit.
I am still frequently losing the battle and sowing to my flesh.
Lord, please give me the grace to sow to the Spirit more often...
How are you doing in the battle against indulging your flesh? What means of grace have you found to be the most helpful in your struggles with self-control?
Linked with Teach me Tuesdays @ Growing Home.